The sound that woke Damian Languell at 8:15 in the morning was so loud he assumed it came from inside his house in Wade, Maine. As he got up to investigate, he heard another sound, this one coming most definitely from outside. Peering out his bedroom window, he spied a tree engulfed in smoke about 500 yards away. A car was wrapped around the tree’s base, its engine on fire.
“I grabbed buckets of water,” Languell told thecounty.me. Then he and his girlfriend ran to the crash site. The wreck looked worse up close. The car, a 1998 Buick Regal, was split nearly in two, and the tree was where the driver’s seat ought to have been, as if planted there. No one should have survived this crash, and yet there was 16-year-old Quintin Thompson, his terrified face pressed against the driver’s side window, in visible pain. Languell, 35, tried dousing the fire with his buckets of water with no success. “When the flames got into the front seats, I realized I had to get him out of there,” he told WAGM-TV.
In an act that a police report described as showing “complete disregard for his own safety,” Languell opened the Buick’s back door and crawled in. Thompson was struggling to get free, Languell says. “That’s when I noticed how bad his legs were.” Using a pocketknife he’d had the foresight to bring with him, he sawed through Thompson’s seat belt.
Now that Thompson was free of the restraints, Languell pulled him out a rear window of the vehicle, then dragged the teen to safety “before the entire car was engulfed in flames,” the police stated.
Although Thompson suffered multiple fractures to his legs, spine, and face, a social media post described him as “looking great, smiling, and joking.” Languell thinks about that day often. Displaying the sort of empathy that compelled him to help, he told WAGM-TV, “My heart goes out to [Thompson]. When you are that close to that level of hurt, you feel it so directly.” Add Languell to our list of real-life heroes changing the world.